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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Technology takes simulators beyond training

Tue 28 Nov 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Technology takes simulators beyond training
OSC simulates operations on a subsea support vessel for offshore oil or renewables (credit: Riviera Maritime Media)

Simulation technology can incorporate augmented reality to go beyond the training requirements and enable vessel operators to test out complex operating scenarios

Simulation technology has gone beyond what is needed for training seafarers. By using new programs and technical concepts, vessel operators are able to test out scenarios, remotely assist complex operations and predict vessels’ future positions.

Augmented reality (AR) and ‘digital twin’ technology can be incorporated into simulation programs to enable oil companies and ship operators to practice advanced operations before attempting them in real life. AR tools can also be used for providing real-time analysis to offshore operations and advice to vessel operators.

Offshore Simulator Centre (OSC) has developed software, AR and predictive programs for its simulators, including one that is used in the Norwegian Maritime Competence (NMK)* centre in Ålesund, Norway, which Marine Electronics & Communications visited in November.

According to OSC chief executive Joel Mills, augmented simulation takes this technology beyond what is needed for training. “We now have the ability to do real physics calculations in real-time,” he explained. “It opens the boundaries between the real world and simulation as we can overlay data that is not otherwise available.”

This means simulators can be used for monitoring live operations remotely, allowing those using the onshore facilities to provide advice to vessel officers. They could also run simulations on complicated operations before the offshore team attempts them.

Another of the benefits of merging simulation with actual offshore vessel operations is the ability to remove the ocean on a simulator program to visualise the subsea facilities and seabed. “We have a realm of augmented tools that take us in new directions and open more doors to give operators advantages over real life,” said Mr Mills.

“A realm of augmented tools that take us in new directions and open more doors to give operators advantages over real life”

One of these tools can indicate stresses on lifting lines to a crane operator during simulations of subsea system installations or cargo transfers. Associated with this, OSC completed a study for an offshore support vessel operator this year on the use of an A-frame for subsea construction projects.

For that study, OSC simulated an A-frame on the stern of an anchor handler and tested various lifting scenarios. This showed that “modifications to existing vessels mean they could be used in subsea installations, allowing smaller vessels to be used in these operations,” said Mr Mills.

By using these augmented simulation tools, OSC also conducted studies for Norwegian state energy group Statoil into the installation of the subsea compression facilities on the Åsgard gas project in the Norwegian Sea. “We simulated everything from the engineering to the installation,” he said, adding that Statoil modified the project’s design and development procedures thanks to gaining a better understanding of the work. “Statoil discovered unexpected risks in simulation instead of at sea, and that reduced time and costs,” Mr Mills said.

Another of NMK’s tenants, Aker Solutions, was able to reduce costs in an offshore project through studies conducted by OSC. It needed to modify a production platform with a new balcony that would fit between gas pipes. Installing this would usually require a complete platform shutdown, but “we showed Aker Solutions that they could put the balcony in without the shutdown,” said Mr Mills.

OSC is also able to produce a digital twin – an electronic model of a ship – in simulation and use that to predict the ship’s future position. Mr Mills said that the simulator can position what he called a ‘digital ghost’ of a ship up to two minutes in the future enabling operators to predict its motion and avoid an accident, such as a collision.

NTNU simulators

Also at the NMK centre, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has built a suite of bridge and dynamic positioning (DP) simulators. Kongsberg Digital is the main supplier of key aspects of the new training facilities by supplying five K-Sim Navigation full mission bridge simulators to the new NTNU Ålesund campus.

These have 240˚ of visual displays and include multifunction workstations for shiphandling and propulsion control, ECDIS, radar and interfaces to a vessel’s communications, energy management and automation systems.

As of the end of November, four of these five systems were in operation and one was still under construction, said NTNU head of nautical education Arnt Myrheim-Holm. He said a variety of ship training programs were available for different vessel types and ports around the world. Different weather and sea conditions can also be introduced to training scenarios.

NTNU has installed a suite of simulators at NMK to teach DP operations. A Kongsberg K-Sim Offshore simulator with DP2 class is ready for training students and two desktop DP simulators from Rolls-Royce were being commissioned at the time of MEC’s visit. Marine Technologies has also supplied a DP2 simulator for training on its bridge systems.

In another room, NTNU has built simulators for testing vessel remote control and autonomous operations. These are for teaching students on the new skills required for remote controlling vessels and for testing these new technologies and operations.

Rolls-Royce plans to build a new 360˚ bridge simulator at NMK with virtual reality capabilities that will be used for training and demonstrating different bridge equipment for various ship types. This is due to be opened in August 2018.

*NMK was set up as an innovation hub to attract maritime companies and provide seafarer training and research facilities. A second phase of construction, which included new offices for satellite communications provider Inmarsat and new training facilities was opened in November.

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